I just saw a post from a young woman who works in the medical industry talking about an exchange she had with a patient while trying to draw his blood. As she tapped his arm to get the vein to appear he then said something to the effect of “Spank me harder next time and wear your high heeled boots.” WTF? Why do men think they can get away with this? Is it maybe because they can?
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein expose it could be a time for all of us to stop and think about the very real, and very unfortunate, reality that women face in the culture. They are preyed upon in their professional environments daily and they seem to kinda have to take it. At least it’s been that way. The “open secret”, as it’s been described. Look at the string of allegations that are surfacing now from Fox News to Hollywood, to even the president’s alleged improprieties. As bad as it is, it could be the beginning of awareness that could lead to stopping this once and for all. But it’s got to start somewhere.
I’d really like our young men to be raised as I was. My mother was very firm with me about the respect I needed to pay women. I remember distinctly when I was about thirteen my friends in the neighborhood rode up to my house on their bikes to excitedly alert me that the neighbor girls were sunbathing. I responded like any 13 year-old boy would and grabbed my bike and told my mom I’d be back soon. When she asked where I was going I told her to which she said, “No you’re not! Those girls aren’t out in the sun for you to look at.” I, unlike most 13 year-olds today, obeyed my mother’s wishes and my friends went without me.
That message totally resonated with me, however. The thought that “this isn’t for you” stuck with me and still sticks with me. A woman, doing her job as a phlebotomist, is not there for a man to sexualize. No woman, outside of the adult entertainment business, is there to be sexualized by men. Some blame the media and advertising but I blame the greater culture. We have allowed a soft form of sexual harassment to be the norm for too long. If a man can say “spank me harder and next time wear your high-heeled boots” to a nurse and expect no repercussions then this is a problem in our culture.
We’ve spent a lot of bandwidth, as we should, talking about the rape culture on campuses. We’ve talked about the glass ceiling and the job and income gap women face, but I don’t think we’ve done an adequate job facing the issues of the accepted cultural norms of sexual harassment. I think this inequality, which obviously starts somewhere in our development formation, is the root cause of all the other gender-equality challenges we see.
What if it was declared hate speech to talk to women like that? I know some would say we’re opening a can of worms where there could be a “he said, she said” issue. But I’m talking about appropriate time/place consideration. This wasn’t a bar with a guy trying to pick up a date that we’re talking about here. This is a woman in a professional environment doing her job. She needs to have some sort of legal protection that would maybe make a guy think twice before saying anything suggestive or insulting.
There is something to be said for true empowerment. And I still think we do a pretty lousy job culturally of truly empowering women. Even the well-meaning “modesty” movement, I think is degrading to women. The message of “don’t wear that or you’ll turn a man on” is a pretty archaic and puritanical notion of just another level of oppression. No, women should be able to wear whatever the hell they want and not give a flip about what a dude thinks, or especially what a dude might say.
We must evolve as a culture. We need to realize dignity of others begins with our perceptions. We need to see people as reflections of ourselves and of our creator. We need to realize that no one is our property or here for our pleasure. If we can begin demanding true empowerment through socially responsible awareness of these injustices we just might be able to set our daughters, and her daughters, up for a much brighter tomorrow.